Solar Eclipse

Agate Fossil Beds drew an estimated crowd of 11,000 for this summer’s solar eclipse.

Record photo by Kerri Rempp

The 2017 tourism season was a successful one in Nebraska, thanks in large part to the August solar eclipse.

An economic impact study conducted by Dean Runyan Associates and Destination Analysts, Inc., indicates that more than 708,000 people visited Nebraska during the solar eclipse, with approximately 87 percent of them traveling here from out of state. It is the largest single tourist event on record in Nebraska and had an economic impact of an estimated $127 million in lodging and travel expenditures.

Locally, hotels across the Panhandle were booked to capacity, including those in Chadron, and area gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores did large volumes of business. Most visitors spent an average of three days in the state, and while nearly 71 percent of them had not been to Nebraska on a leisure trip (not to visit friends or relatives) in the last three years, 40 percent said they are likely to return to further explore the area in the next two years.

Media coverage also garnered an estimated $133 million of publicity for the state.

“The eclipse was the perfect opportunity to show off our great state to hundreds of thousands of people. I want to praise the efforts of the Nebraska Tourism Commission and the Nebraska Eclipse Coalition in making August 21, 2017, a safe and pleasurable experience for so many people,” said Lt. Governor Mike Foley at the Nebraska Tourism Conference this week.

Locally, in addition to solar eclipse visitors, the northern Panhandle region was able to capitalize on the Nebraska Passport Program, which featured several stops in the area.

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One of those stops, the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center on the Chadron State College campus, hosted 2,000 visitors through the program.

The Nebraska Passport Program is an annual Nebraska Tourism Commission program featuring 80 statewide destinations. The stops in the free program include museums, parks, restaurants, and more.

The Sandoz Center stamped 1,027 passports and issued 917 digital stamps.

In total, the Nebraska Passport Program website said 32,650 passport booklets were requested from 376 Nebraska communities and 43 states and 95,862 digital stamps were collected. Of the participants, 465 passport holders visited all 80 locations.

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